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Miller Dam sluice repairs delayed again

Miller Dam sluice repairs delayed again Miller Dam sluice repairs delayed again

County OKs extension until July 31 to allow water levels to decrease

Long-awaited repairs to the sluice gate at Miller Dam will be done by July 31, nine months after the original deadline.

On Friday, members of the Taylor County Forestry and Recreation Committee approved a contract change with Nordic Group of Carlson, Minn. granting an extension until the end of July. In April 2021, the county entered into a contract with Nordic Group to replace the sluice gate. The initial contract called for the work to be done by November 1, 2021. Delays in the manufacture and delivery of the new cast iron gate resulted in adding 212 days to the contract with the completion by June 1. Now however, with the water levels still high from spring runoff, they are asking for the additional extension.

The sluice gate rapper project is projected to have a final cost of $113,993, with the bulk of it being an $83,000 payment to Nordic Group which will not be paid until the project is completed.

The work will be done by divers and require no drawdown to the flowage. According to forest administrator Jake Walcisak, the big hold up was a piece that would have had a six week turnaround becoming a three month turnaround. He said the company was very confident that they would have the new gate installed by the end of July.

Committee chairman Scott Mildbrand noted that Miller Dam was a big deal for the people of Taylor County as one of the region’s biggest recreation areas.

“I am personally amazed at how long it has taken,” said committee member Rollie Thums.

Walcisak said the county first learned of concerns with the sluice gate in June 2020 and as far as dams go he said this has been fairly rapid with the funding being put in place and grant awarded to help with it. By comparison, the Chelsea Lake and Camp 8 dam projects have drug along for some time.

Committee members received an update on the status of those projects. Walcisak said that going by past grant cycles, the county should find out in early June if they qualified for grants for the two dams. The county just missed the funding cut-off for the dams in 2020, but since then they have worked with engineers at Ayres Associates to maximize the number of points available. Walcisak noted the state budget this time had more than doubled the amount of funds available for the grants from $4 million to be awarded last cycle to $10 million in the current cycle.

“We made sure we squeezed out every last point we could,” Walcisak said.

Mildbrand raised concerns about the increasing cost of materials and what impact that would have on the project estimates. The engineer from Ayres Associates appeared by phone and said that he was confident in the numbers. He said a project in Sheboygan County that is very similar to the one proposed for Chelsea Lake Dam was recently bid and came slightly less than their cost projections.

Mildbrand also noted that the Camp 8 dam project called for the lake to be drained while the work is being done. He asked that they look into opportunities for making improvements to the lake such as dredging to make it deeper. Committee member Gary Beadles noted that while the water is drawn down, it would be a good time to add fish cribs to the lake.

In other business committee members:

_ Approved applying for disaster damage aid totaling $10,892.95 for culvert and road washouts that occurred at four locations in the county forest during the April 12 storm that dumped more than two inches of rain on the area at a time when the ground was frozen resulting in significant flooding. “I commend Jordan [Lutz] for taking the bull by the horns,” Walcisak said, praising the assistant administrator for pursuing the damage aid.

_ Approved putting out for bids four timber sales totaling 266 acres and having a projected combined value of $156,357. Lutz noted that this is the base value the county is projecting and that they would hope through the bid process that the county’s revenue from the sale would be more. The bids will be awarded at the June 4 committee meeting. The county currently has 16 active sales totaling 1,248 acres. Each year the county puts out about 500 acres in sales between the fall and spring sales.

_ Received a report on the planting of a 43-acre red pine plantation. Walcisak said it took a migrant planting crew 8.5 hours to plant 37,000 trees at the site. Committee members approved moving forward with a reforestation project to prepare a 10-11 acre red pine stand for eventual replanting. Walcisak noted the cost comes to about $500 per acre including site work, seedling costs and planting. Red and white pines which are used for telephone poles are high-value when eventually harvested in about 25 years.